Money

Why Richard Branson, Jack Dorsey and other billionaires wake up at dawn

President of Virgin Atlantic Richard Branson and Virgin Airlines cabin attendant Vicky Lewis ride a jet ski in the Bellagio fountains at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino.
Denise Truscello | WireImage | Getty Images
President of Virgin Atlantic Richard Branson and Virgin Airlines cabin attendant Vicky Lewis ride a jet ski in the Bellagio fountains at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino.

Self-made billionaire Richard Branson wakes up around 5 a.m. to exercise before starting his work day.

Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, who's worth an estimated $1.2 billion, also starts his morning routine at 5 a.m.

They're far from the only wealthy and successful individuals who get up before the sun does.

In a five-year study of 177 self-made millionaires, author Thomas C. Corley found that nearly 50 percent of them woke up at least three hours before their work day actually began.

It's a strategy to deal with inevitable daily disruptions — such as a meeting that went too long or bumper-to-bumper traffic — and still have time to accomplish everything you set out to do that day, Corley explains in his book, "Change Your Habits, Change Your Life."

Ultimately, getting things done early gives you more control over your life, he writes: "It gives you a sense of confidence that you, indeed, direct your life. It gives you a feeling of power over your life. It puts the reins of 'your' life back into 'your' hands."

Plus, the morning is the most productive time of the day, The Wall Street Journal reports, because it allows you to tackle tasks before distractions arise.

"When you have peace and quiet and you're not concerned with people trying to get your attention, you're dramatically more effective and can get important work done," psychologist Josh Davis and author of "Two Awesome Hours" tells the Journal.

By waking up before the sun rises, you're essentially eliminating common distractions, such as text messages, emails and social media notifications. "No one is expecting you to email or answer the phone at 4 a.m.," Davis says. "No one will be posting on Facebook. You've removed the internal temptation and the external temptation."

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If you want to join the early bird club, start with pro tips from those who are already in it.

"I sleep in gym clothes and put sneakers on within 10 seconds of waking up," entrepreneur Peter Shankman, who gets up at 4 a.m. to run, tells the Journal. "It's very hard to go back to sleep once your shoes are on."

Another early bird has a programmable coffeemaker that starts percolating at 3:45 a.m.

If you're really not a morning person, Corley recommends finding someone else who will join you as an accountability partner.

Most importantly, don't wait. "Start tomorrow," he writes.